Is it worth it?
updated version of a Facebook post written in 2014
Today I want to talk about a fitness fad that is actually a throwback to Victorian times...WAIST TRAINING or cinching or corseting. I will start off by saying I am completely against any fitness fad that is unhealthy, unrealistic, or dangerous. Waist training is one of those fads that pops up time and again in women's fitness groups that I am in. I want to tell you, it's NOT worth it to me to do damage to my body for some drastic "beauty standard", this is my personal opinion, however, the reasons behind my opinion are based on physiology. Please read on and ask yourself, is it worth it for you?
The human body comes with an internal corset of muscles called the TRANSVERSE ABDOMINALS. These muscle are deep in the body and provide shape, support and strength for the entire core and trunk. These muscles are necessary for total body strength and health, as well as for proper posture, alignment, stability and spine mobility. Waist trainers restrict the use of those super important muscles by squeezing the torso tightly (from the lower rib cage to the hips) whereby you cannot engage them yourself. The effect being a smaller waist…but a totally weak core and with that the potential for injury to your back, , plus displaced ribs and organs when used for long periods of time. This is where someone will say, "But that happens when you are pregnant too, the organs move and the ribs expand, so the body is made to do that." That is correct. I will not argue that fact. We have hormones that cause our bodies to adjust for pregnancy. Those same hormones help our structures return to their pre-pregnancy state postpartum. Granted some of us do not return 100% to our pre-pregnancy shape or size, and that should be ok, acceptable, and understood…we housed and birthed human life, change is going to happen. There are cases, as with those with postpartum hernias or Diastasis Recti, which may require some medically necessary binding to aid in repair and healing (photo of wrap below). This is a completely different matter and for a medical purpose, not aesthetics or fashion trend. As for those women that gain an excessive amount of weight during pregnancy, that is a different issue that a belly band, magic wrap, waist trainer, or corset is not going to fix.
(That is a lifestyle choice, and if you are struggling with losing fat and weight postpartum, please seek nutrition and fitness advice. There are plenty of qualified professionals out there, myself included, that can help set you on the right path and course of action if losing weight is your goal. Please do not fall for the fads, and quick fix money-making schemes that have taken over social media.)
There are many arguments and opinions on this matter, and whether or not a “waist trainer” can help with “back support” or “core support”. There is a major difference between wearing a back brace that is prescribed by a doctor or physical therapist for legitimate back injuries or issues like herniated discs and sciatica, and wearing a corset to make your waist unnaturally (for your body structure) smaller. There is a difference between wearing a belly band to help heal a severe case of diagnosed Diastasis Recti or after having a c-section versus wearing a latex/neoprene/plastic wrap to help “burn belly fat” (which by the way is an impossibility as you can’t spot burn fat and sweating does not equal fat loss).
Spanx and other body-shaping apparel are meant to be worn temporarily to help streamline your body under clothing…and are not meant to alter the true shape of your body long-term. Wearing a band to remind you to engage your core is a cop out. You need to work with consciousness and awareness of proper form in order to strengthen those important muscles properly. Wearing a band around your waist as a reminder is like wearing that string around your finger to remember to take out the garbage…oh that’s what I put that there for…
I keep seeing posts of the Insta-famous faux-fitness celebs and pop culture celebrities like the Kardashians wearing wraps, bands, and corsets after having babies to quickly “bounce back” to an even tighter middle than before having babies. It's CRAZY. These celebrities are paid millions of dollars in endorsements and royalties to wear these products and promote them, whether they are healthy or not! For the most part, those women already have hour glass figures, don’t be fooled. They also have the money to hire chefs and nutritionists and trainers to make sure they get back to pre-baby body as quickly as possible, regardless of how unhealthy it may be.
It is a temporary fix and they are not telling you the whole story. You should not wear a waist trainer while exercising or sleeping...but so many women are. This is dangerous. Period. You need to be able to engage your own muscles and breathe deeply while lifting weights or running or whatever form of exercise you choose. Functionally speaking, when wearing one of these you are not only causing shallow breathing, which is not allowing your body to fully oxygenate your blood, but you can cause nerve damage...imagine wearing 6 inch stilettos for 24 hours a day. Can you feel your feet tingling with numbness just thinking about it? With a list trainer you are doing the same thing. You need to create strength not weakness. It is not a support to wear a corset.
I will note that I also take issue with the products (pills, wraps, shakes, diets and even exercise programs focused solely on ab exercises, example to the left) proclaiming that they help to burn belly fat, as stated above, THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. I'm sorry to tell you again, but no one and nothing can spot reduce fat (except liposuction and other extreme fat removal surgical procedures). If you have fat around your midsection and you wear a waist trainer, all you are doing is pushing that fat up and down...exercise and a healthy diet reduces fat all over the body proportionally. If you carry more fat in your belly, it will be the last to go.
Why do you think these products say in small print, "Use with a proper diet and exercise program for the best results." You may sweat a lot in the area you are squeezing with a belly band, but all you are losing is water, not fat. Body shape is determined mainly by genetics. If you don't have an hourglass figure, it's not likely you will get one naturally. You CAN create the illusion with a very carefully planned weight training program to build out your shoulders to be more broad and to grow your glutes and legs to emphasize the X formation of the body. To get the physique you long for, it takes hard work and dedication to a fitness regimen and a healthy balanced diet...not a magic pill or a magic wrap. I am not claiming that the bands used to sweat are dangerous, I am stating that they are pointless. All you are doing is losing water, and when you replenish your fluids you replace that water and weight. Fat loss happens because of a caloric deficit, not from excessive sweating.
There is no "quick fix" that actually works for the long term. These fads come and go, but what has stayed tried and true is healthy eating and consistent exercise...it might take longer and may be more difficult, but THAT is what works! So I ask, is waist training worth it? If your answer is yes, then good on you. You are free to modify your body as you choose, whether it is harmful or not. If you are rethinking pressing that 'purchase' button on amazon, perhaps there is something better out there for you. I will recommend, once again, seeking out a qualified fitness and nutrition professional to help set you on your way to your realistic fitness goals. Any fitness professional with education and integrity will steer you away from fads and products like these. I know I will catch flak from the waist training community and people that advocate their use, and it’s ok. But I stand by my opinion and the physiological facts based on science.
Thank you for reading and sharing.